THE BEAR VALLEY HOTEL – 1888
In 1888, just four years after the rock dam was built that created Big Bear Lake, two local Big Bear ranchers, Gus Knight Jr. and John Metcalf built Big Bear’s first resort hotel. Big Bear village didn’t exist yet, and the only two roads into the valley should have been called trails. In spite of the difficulties involved in getting to Big Bear, the new hotel was booked solid with advance reservations.
The little hotel was located on today’s Pine Knot Avenue, and it was strictly a summer time operation. But, it had a monopoly on Big Bear’s tourist trade that lasted until Christmas Eve December 24, 1900, when the hotel mysteriously caught fire and burned to the ground. The hotel had been closed for the winter, and the cause of the fire was never determined. Since there were no other resorts in the valley, Big Bear’s resort industry was wiped out overnight.
Here are a few photos of that early resort.
This hotel went through several name changes during it’s short but successful twelve year existence. It started out as the Bear Valley Hotel, then it was Knight’s Hotel. In it’s last years it was called the Bear Valley Resort. The photo below is of a promotional brochure from the hotel’s later years.
THE PINE KNOT LODGE
The success of Knight’s Bear Valley Hotel had been noted by the board of directors of the water company that owned the lake. As a result in 1906, a group of wealthy investors, which included Bear Valley Mutual Water Company directors Herbert Garstin and William Glass, got together and formed a syndicate to purchase what was left of the old Bear Valley Hotel property. Claiming to have almost unlimited financial resources, they proceeded built a huge first class resort.
It was called the Pine Knot Lodge, and it was the center of the Big Bear Lake community in the early 1900’s. Check out the article entitled Lodges and Tourism for more on this story. Here are some photos of that early resort.
For a more detailed look at Big Bear’s fascinating history, go to the Channel-6 website program guide. Here you will find the dates and times for the various Big Bear Historical episodes on Channel-6’s History Show.